April 13, 2012

Spring has Sprung

" Spring's Promise" 8X10, pastel on paper

It's that time....birds are singing, weather improving, and the itch to paint outdoors makes it harder to do studio work.

In view of this, I thought I would pass along some wisdom from a plein air master, John Carlson.  This  is in his book "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting", which I consider to be the landscape painters Bible.  Here it is:

- the darkest darks are present in vertical uprights (trees, in this case)
- next darkest plane is distant hills, followed by the tonal value of the horizontal mass (ground), and the lightest mass  is the sky.

Okay, okay - I know what you are going to say:  "Why isn't that true in the painting above".  Simple:  it's a stormy sky, and the foreground is not sunlit.  This particular landscape has  an unusual weather effect going on, so it bends the rules. Notice though, that the trees are definitely the darkest mass.  If the background field was not lit by the sun, the rules above would hold true.  In heading out into the landscape it is ALWAYS prudent to squint down to make sure your tonal masses are in proper relationship, otherwise nothing will look convincing. Squint down and look at the landscape (by looking past your canvas), and then squint and look at your painting; adjust accordingly.  Squint and compare.

So what are you waiting for?   Turn off the computer and get out there - and may the Force be with you.

Happy painting,

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